Western U.P. coalition gets funding to fight invasive species

Western U.P. coalition gets funding to fight invasive species

CRYSTAL FALLS — A big project to help combat invasive species is coming together in the western U.P.

The Iron Conservation District just received a Michigan Invasive Species Grant of over $150,000 dollars to help fund the multifaceted project. The project will help sustain and expand invasive species prevention and removal work while also expanding outreach and education.

“It is a substantial grant. It’s probably one of the largest the Iron Conservation District has ever been a part of,” said Jennifer Ricker, District Manager for the Iron and Baraga Conservation District and coordinator for the Western Peninsula Invasive Coalition for Iron, Gogebic, and Ontonagon Counties. “We are actually addressing invasive species concerns that are both aquatic and terrestrial, so we’ll be doing work on land, water, streams, so on and so forth.”

“Now that we have this grant money, we have just a larger ability to treat these invasives,” said Roger Jaworski, Forester for the Forestry Assistance Program at Iron and Baraga Counties.

One aspect of the project will involve employing a unique device — called a benthic barrier — to remove Eurasian watermilfoil plants from Iron Lake.

“We’re going to be utilizing basically a large tarp — in a way — and we will be moving it in sections across the lake bottom, and the idea is to basically suffocate the milfoil,” Ricker added.

“I think that with the benthic barrier that if it works, we’ll see it pop up in many more areas,” said Michael Zukowski, a project coordinator.

This mechanical removal method will hopefully help the group minimize the use of chemicals in the battle against invasive plants.

[Photo courtesy Iron Conservation District]